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PCL notes: Hendricks toils under Iowa radar

Focus on hitters gives Cubs' No. 14 prospect time, space to improve
June 23, 2014

It's been well established that the Chicago Cubs have a lot of great hitting prospects rising through their farm system. Their pitchers, on the other hand, are often relegated to a casual mention here or there, often dismissed as not living up to the potential of their position player teammates.

For Iowa's Kyle Hendricks, that sort of talk isn't something to take seriously but can also be used to fire up the Cubs' Minor League pitchers.

"It's kind of a 'whatever,' you don't want to pay attention to it," Chicago's No. 14 prospect said. "But it also serves as motivation. It makes you want to get better. It motivates you to prove people wrong.

"But in the end, we don't really want to pay attention to that. I know not only myself, but there are a ton of good arms in this organization. It starts here at the Triple-A level and goes all the way down basically. The whole staff here, we've had an incredible year."

Iowa's 3.90 team ERA is the third-lowest in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, while the staff's 193 walks are the fewest.

Hendricks has certainly done his part, going 8-5 with a 3.55 ERA through 14 starts. His last outing Friday against El Paso may have been his best to date as the former Dartmouth ace allowed one run on three hits without a walk while striking out six in 7 2/3 innings.

It was his third straight quality start after back-to-back rough outings in which Hendricks allowed nine runs in 11 innings.

"My last three starts, I've thrown the ball much better, been down in the zone," Hendricks said. "When you're down in the zone like that, then the balls find your infielders somehow. It just happens to work out like that."

Hendricks has only allowed two walks over his last 21 2 /3 innings. He credited that success with working on the mental side of the game with Iowa pitching coach Bruce Walton.

"That goes back to that mentality of just attacking hitters," Hendricks said. "Going out from the first pitch and going right after hitters, attacking their weaknesses instead of trying to feel your way into a game. Sometimes starters and I especially have been guilty of that."

Trade rumors are already swirling around Chicago's North Side, with more veterans expected to be shipped out in the coming weeks. Hendricks is one of several Iowa players who could be in line to move up once those veterans are dealt away, though it's not something he plans to think too much about.

"All we can focus on is our day-to-day work and getting better," Hendricks said. "All we can focus on is what we can do here."

In brief

X-Man returns: Memphis first baseman Xavier Scruggs returned to his college town of Las Vegas on Saturday, going 1-for-4 with a two-run homer. Scruggs hit 34 home runs for UNLV from 2006-08 before the Cardinals drafted him in the 19th round.

Fond farewell: The Sacramento outfield took on a different look last week when longtime River Cat Michael Taylor was traded to the White Sox. Taylor had been with Sacramento since 2010, usually playing right field while amassing 552 hits in 2,016 at-bats over that span.

Fit to be Tai-ed: Top Mariners prospect Taijuan Walker has been working his way back from an early-season injury with mixed results. After allowing just one run in 6 2 /3 innings against Nashville on June 14, he returned home to Tacoma and was roughed up for seven runs -- six earned -- in five innings Thursday.

Chris Jackson is a contributor to